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Calif. Vows to Fight Feds' Fuel-Efficiency Roll Back

The Trump administration wants to eliminate California's ability to set its own higher emissions standards for cars. (1laura/Twenty20)
The Trump administration wants to eliminate California's ability to set its own higher emissions standards for cars. (1laura/Twenty20)
August 3, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Trump administration is halting the push for higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars – and wants to take away California's ability to set its own standards.

The administration says rolling back the Obama-era rules would save buyers of new vehicles about $2,000, while consumer groups counter that better fuel efficiency saves money at the gas pump.

The proposal would also eliminate a federal waiver that has allowed California to set more stringent clean-car rules. On Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to file a lawsuit against the plan.

He says the state has been setting emission standards for close to 50 years.

"That's why we're the only state in the nation to have a waiver from the federal government,” says Becerra. “That's why we have led from the very beginning when it comes to keeping our environment as clean as possible. And that's why we're prepared to lead again, when it comes to protecting the national standards we have for cleaner cars."

At least 19 other states have said they will join California in the suit.

The Trump administration also says freezing the miles per gallon for cars at 35 – rather than 54 in the current standards – means people would drive less, which would lower the risk of car crashes. However, outside experts and even EPA scientists have contested this point.

There's a 60-day comment period on the proposed changes.

Doctor Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, warns they'd take the country backward and jeopardize public health.

"This is absolutely a health and safely issue,” says Benjamin. “We know that reducing air pollution is a direct health hazard and not a theoretical one. This proposal by the administration will result directly in more heart attacks, more asthma attacks, more sick kids, and more spending out of our pockets for sick care."

In May, California joined 16 other states in a lawsuit against the EPA to protect the fuel-efficiency standards, arguing that striking them violates the Clean Air Act. Currently, cars and light trucks are responsible for one-fifth of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - CA